Review: Notes on a Summer
- Diego Llorente’s new film explores the summer dreams and turmoil experienced by a young woman from Asturias
Spanish director Diego Llorente’s new movie, Notes on a Summer [+see also:
film profile], recently presented in the International Film Festival Rotterdam’s Tiger competition, tells the story of a young woman grappling with the difficult decisions which need to be made in life. Marta (Katia Borlado) lives in Madrid, having only just moved there with her new partner Leo (Antonio Araque), and is getting ready to spend her holidays in her native Asturias, where she encounters her first love Pablo (Álvaro Quintana), whom she’d never really forgotten.
Through this simple tale which stops short of banality, Llorente takes a minimalist approach to tell a universal story with a slight Rohmerian flavour about a confused twenty-year-old protagonist and a surprising, bittersweet summer which sees her gain in maturity. Dotted with little vignettes depicting scenes of everyday life, the film follows a classic route too, starting out in Madrid, spending the summer holidays in Asturias, and then returning to the capital: places which help to chart Marta’s state of mind and map out her own inner geography. Whilst Madrid offers job security and a stable relationship, Asturias is a paradise lost, a fairy-tale setting in which to savour the final vestiges of young light-heartedness. Some of the film’s most interesting parts consist of attempts to describe in brief the conversations and social rituals of young people like those in Asturias, on the edges of Europe as it slides further and further towards a crisis.
Some of the dialogue does lack depth and inspiration – compared to Pascal Tagnati’s accomplished efforts to describe the summertime in a Corsican town in the wonderful I Comete – A Corsican Summer [+see also:
interview: Pascal Tagnati
film profile], which was presented in the same competition last year – but Llorente makes minimalist style his constant companion and keeps his promise of light-heartedness hinted at by the film’s title. Emotions are conveyed through physical acts, simple gestures such as pouring cider or taking a selfie, long walks on the coast. The film hovers between lyrical ideas and astrological themes of health, work and love. Marta’s resignation is that of a generation which has to come to terms with the detritus left by recent years of economic and social crisis. Detritus which, like ocean waves, reflects the protagonist’s private life and puts dreams and projects into perspective.
The initial challenges of adult life and youthful passion which needs to be extinguished are the main themes of this little film, which sees Diego Llorente creating images of rare poetry (the opening scenes in the swimming pool, bodies which attract one another in the water, summer afternoons…). If there’s one physical force in operation throughout the film, it’s suspension and connection between two bodies, two phases, two life cycles.
Despite the conciliatory ending, with its forced return to the big city (life goes on), we’re left with a bitter taste in our mouths on account of the film’s depiction of lost love, another summer to be left behind, and the melancholy of September. Who knows whether, far away from home, Marta has ever read the words of Cesare Pavese in his novel The Moon and the Bonfires: “One needs a town, if only for the pleasure of leaving it. A town means not being alone, knowing that in the people, the trees, the soil, there is something of yourself, that even when you're not there it stays and waits for you”.
Notes on a Summer is produced by Failo Cine, with German firm Patra Spanou Film handling world sales.
(Translated from Italian)
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